Mattress Mack Perseveres

Gallery furniture owner Jim McIngvale — known as Mattress Mack to millions of Houstonians — says he and his family will overcome the loss of their huge warehouse. A four-alarm fire obliterated the giant facility last night, resulting in millions of dollars in losses and damage to a Houston retail icon. Laurie Johnson has more.
image of Jim McIngvale or Mattress Mac

Wearing a denim shirt, jeans and cowboy hat, Jim McIngvale paused inside his store on Post Oak, shielding his eyes for a moment while leaning against his son. The man who made his millions jumping up and down wearing a mattress on countless TV commercials looked haggard and red-eyed as he took a moment to talk to reporters.

"You know when I saw the news coverage last night it kind of hit home and when I saw the front page of the Chronicle it hit home. Then President Bush called me this morning and that was very emotional for me, so it has been a tough day, but lots of great people out there supporting us. And this store is doing well, lots of customers in here, so we'll just keep the faith and keep believing in the Almighty and make it happen."

The fire-gutted warehouse sits just behind the famous furniture store on I-45 between Tidwell and Parker. Traffic was slow on the freeway today as drivers tried to see the damage — causing more than a couple fender benders in the process.

the fire-gutted warehouse

The acrid smell of smoke is still heavy in the air and water streams out of the building, draining from last night's deluge of fire hoses. Here and there people gathered in parking lots to take in the sight.

"We saw it on the news last night, come out here to see what it actually had done. It's gone. Mattress Mack, he'll get it back."

It's too soon to know exactly what happened to cause the fire, but Houston Fire District Chief Tommy Dowdy says at this point they have no reason to suspect arson.

"There was a transformer in the back part of the building and there was an emergency generator back there. And several of the witnesses that were working the store said that they had tried to put out a small fire in this area. And they also store some of the scotch-guarding material back there, which is pretty flammable. So they attempted to fight the fire, gave up on that, that's when they called 9-1-1 so they have a pretty good idea where the fire started, we don't know why the fire started yet."

Back at his second store, Mack gets ready to leave to give a speech at a high school graduation, saying he's not one to cancel.

the fire-gutted warehouse

"Well you know I always talk about perseverance and resilience so I'm going to go in there and model what I talk about. You know I think that it's one thing to say something and another thing to do it, so I'm going to model what I talk about and talk about if you want to be successful in life it's all about never giving up and fighting through adversity and we all have it and this is a day of adversity for the McIngvale family and for the Gallery Furniture family, but we're going to fight through  it and we're going to take care of our customers and we're going to overcome."

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...